When a trip to the moon is on the boring side, you know you are living in a different world. The story of Feed begins with a group of teenagers heading off to the moon to look for some fun, some distraction. The beginning of this book is a bit difficult to understand for the very reason that things in this universe are so different. Everyone has a feed, something wired right in their brains that reads their emotional and physiological reactions to the environment, products, etc and makes suggestions to them as consumers. There's a dictionary and ability to chat within the feed to each other, everyone is connected, and online all the time, right inside their heads.
As a result, one could say language has evolved or from my perspective, broken down, simplified to whatever the bare necessities are to get by. The slang is different as well. For these reasons, it took me awhile to get into the story, just a very little while, because I needed to learn the language and understand the world. The story is told from the point of view of Titus, who is not brilliantly self-aware, so that makes for interesting reading as well. But the world Titus lives in, due to the feed, is completely centered around consumption, and that feeling, of boredom of needing to consume more is ever present. Titus meets a girl, though, a girl who has some resistance to the feed since she had it put in later in life. And at first I think this sort of resistance is another diversion in an endless list of diversions fun and sexy but the consequences start to become real.
I really loved this book and found it very thought provoking. One of the things I really appreciate so much about it, painful as it was, is how very real Titus and Violet felt. Violet is our face of resistance, but she also just wants to be a normal girl, she wants to go to parties and fit in with her boyfriend's friends, and she wants to matter to Titus. And Titus is a teenage boy who cares about Violet but struggles to really deal with it all when things turn intense. He doesn't want to feel responsible for Violet's happiness and he doesn't know how to process what's happening with her and enter into that deeper place of pain and suffering and loss with her. He does a couple of things that made me so incredibly angry, but they also seemed very real for someone terrified of truly knowing another person, or someone who simply couldn't be bothered. The sort of relationship Violet offers Titus is not mainstream for the day.
I also found the ideas about media fascinating. It seems I've read a lot of dystopian work lately that wants to take on media and Feed is no exception. In this book, things that should be seen as dreadful and awful gain acceptance when stars also experience them. Everything about what people think is really coming through this piped in feed. There's a scene where Titus just buys item after item until he has no money left, and other scenes where he looks for something to buy but there's just nothing of interest. What's so effective and terrifying about this is that I can recognize this in myself...shopping out of boredom, and shopping to numb the pain.
There are other commentaries being made in this book, about the US and the way we stomp all over the rest of the world to get what we want. The degree to which the president of the United States ability to communicate has disintegrated is interesting. And consequences and side effects begin to show up for everyone for this kind of life. Additionally, major ugly flaws find acceptance if media images make them so. There's so much to examine and think about and discuss in this book.
I won't lie...I cried at the end.
This is the second thing I've read by M.T. Anderson, the first being a short story in the collection, No Such Thing as the Real World. I find his work to be very thought provoking and look forward to more.
Things You Might Want to Know: There might have been some profanity
Source of Book: Bought it
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Review: Feed by M.T. Anderson